Adam Joseph, Founder, CustomerSuccessManager.com
The growth of Customer Success (CS) as a corporate discipline has been remarkable and continues unabated. Fuelling this incredible growth has been the seismic shift from a transaction economy to the subscription model. No longer do customers typically buy solutions for perpetuity but instead subscribe to them for a fixed period. According to Forrester Intelligence, we are already 5 years into the "Age of the Customer”, where outcomes are expected, not transactions. Customers don’t want to be sold a “product”, they want an on-going partnership with vendors who have a thorough understanding of their business needs and provide solutions that meet and exceed agreed goals. Simply put, Customer Success teams makes this happen; they must constantly demonstrate that they are providing a tangible ROI (Return on Investment) to their clients or they will be replaced.
A further illustration of this growth can be seen in recently published research reports by LinkedIn. The Customer Success Manager was ranked fourth in its “2017 U.S. Emerging Jobs Report” and third in the “Most Promising Jobs and In-Demand Skills of 2018”. What is even more staggering was that only a year ago, in the “Most Promising Jobs of 2017”, the Customer Success Manager was ranked nineteenth with significant increases shown in median pay (from $72,000 to $82,300), job openings and (in both years) a career advancement score of 10/10.
Given the increased importance of Customer Success as a corporate function and the Customer Success Manager as a credible, lucrative and meaningful career choice, it is absolutely imperative that it actually delivers on its promise to increase lifetime customer value. In order to do this, each organisation with a Customer Success function typically uses checks and balances (i.e. metrics) to ensure that it is performing to an optimal level and if not, will make the changes necessary to do so. Examples of these metrics include Net Retention, Churn rates, MRR / ARR (Monthly/Annual Reoccurring Revenue), Growth, Product Usage, NPS (Net Promoter Score), Surveys and Customer Health Scores.
However, what does Customer Success "excellence" really look like from the most important stakeholder of them all - the customer? How do they view the importance of the work carried out by the Customer Success team? Failure to understand this properly will be one of the biggest factors that contributes towards “green churn”, a term that describes an unexpected downgrade or cancellation requests from customers that otherwise appears to be healthy. Here are some key recommendations on how you can ensure that your customers truly understand and appreciate the value that Customer Success brings to their organisation:
Collect Customer Success Criteria Subjectively & Objectively
Segment your Customer Stakeholders
Discuss Business Benefits not Features
Identify and Communicate Early Wins
Use Every Customer Engagement as an Opportunity
Perform Win, Loss & Churn (WLC) Analysis
Align your Approach
Asking your Customer to be your Advocate
As the “Age of the Customer” continues to mature, it is imperative that you are able to step back from your day-to-day operations and understand your customers’ perspective of both your organisation and your CS function. With that in mind and by the using the methods discussed above, make the necessary positive changes to help your clients truly understand the key business benefits that they are achieving in a language that is going to resonate the loudest. In such a competitive landscape where new entrants are disrupting even the most established markets, doing this right could well be the difference between keeping/growing your customer base or face the risk of having them leave you entirely.
Until you know what it takes to achieve success from your customers’ perspective you will just waste valuable time doing things that will have little long-term impact